Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Title IX Must-Read: Getting In the Game

Hot off the press! Getting In the Game is a new book by Title IX expert Professor Debbie Brake from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. In the book, Brake examines how Title IX has affected and continues to affect many facets of college and scholastic athletics for men and women. Chapter by chapter, Brake identifies and analyzes the hard and interesting questions that Title IX raises, including the appropriateness of separate teams in the first place, whether and when girls should be able to try out for boys' teams, how to measure equal opportunities (the three-part test), what counts as athletic opportunities (including the cheerleading issue), the effect of Title IX on men's sports, the effect of Title IX on women of color (for more, see here), what constitutes equal treatment, the tension between equal treatment and acknowledging sex-differences (the pregnancy issue), and general aspects of the law, such as protection against sexual harassment and employment discrimination, that apply to athletics as well.

Brake is not shy about her own opinions about where the law gets it right and in what ways it can improve. For example, Brake acknowledges the critique of Title IX that by allowing separate teams for men and women, the law has harmed women's sports by segregated women into sports that receive the least support, least prestige, and reinforce stereotypes about women's athletic inferiority. But, she argues persuasively that separate teams are needed to preserve opportunities for women -- to give them the chance to, essentially, get in the game. Relatedly, however, she critiques some of the limitations on co-ed participation, including the existing regulation that lets schools prevent girls from trying out for boys' teams in contact sports, as well as the limitation on co-ed participation in sports where both a girls team and a boys team is offered. Brake proposes that girls should be allowed to try out for boys teams in both contact and non-contact sports, and even if there is a girls team that exists in that sport, but where that team is not truly equal, due to different levels of support for teams, level of play, or status. This proposal addresses some of the anti-separatist concerns without abruptly curtailing the protection of women's opportunities that results from having a default of separate teams.

Throughout the book, Brake balances detail and context on the one hand with readability on the other. The result is a book that should appeal to a broad audience including legal experts, athletic administrators, student-athletics, parents, and fans.

For other endorsements, see here.